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Convention Reviews

Monday, October 30, 2017 - 09:20 by BenCTurnbull

My second ever con fell on my birthday weekend and as such a group of 6 of us took to Glasgow for some time away to nerd-up and chill-out. This time I decided to give cosplay a go and spent the summer on and off planning and building myself a reasonable Adrian Toombes (“Vulture”; Spiderman: homecoming) costume. It’s not the most amazing but given that it was my first go at this I am quite proud. The con itself was another exciting demonstration of the vast array of nerdery and the cosplay lived up to this. From casual dressers to occupational cosplayers and from niche subcultures through to Marvel and WWE we had it all. Particularly well represented were Deadpools, Spidermans, Harley Quinns, and Ricks. But enough of that, what about the strengths and weaknesses of the con as a whole?

Location/Venue

The location was the SECC which was easy to access by both road and train. There was ample parking available both directly at the venue but also 10mins away at the Glasgow Science Centre. Stewarding was well done as the queues on the first day were managed clearly and the line moved promptly. The SECC itself is a large, open, two-part hall accompanied by a side corridor of shops, eateries, cash points, and stairs to the auditoria. Overall, it served as a perfectly fine venue for the con.

Regarding the layout of the con itself,  it was quite cramped. All stalls and attractions were broadly on a grid system which made obvious isles and tracks to follow. However, for the volume of people attending, the spacing wasn’t ideal as you were often near enough face-to-back with people which made not only navigating but also perusing the stalls difficult. They also put all con-related food into one of the sub-rooms which was nice. The venue itself had a good number of toilets scattered evenly around the rooms.

Lastly, advertisement fell a little short. Both the website and in-con advertisement wasn’t as good as it could be, and some things were simply not at all. Most timetabled events were difficult to know about. Overall, a suitable venue but a little over-stuffed with much needed in terms of direction.

Stalls

There was a good range of stalls, as you would expect from MCM. This included standard commercial merch, with a focus on mystery boxes; seriously: there was not only a mystery box stand but serval of the other sellers also had their own! As well as plenty of independent trader selling homemade trinkets, there was also a good range of stalls including props, original artwork, comic books, and rather a lot of soft toys (particularly Pokemon and rainbow alpacas…). The other noticeable thing was there was a significant proportion of Japanese stalls including food and merchandise. This was quite nice, and it drew away from some of the more American-heavy themes. Overall, stalls were good. There was a decent range of things to look at and buy from the casual nerd through to the lover of niche anime.

Attractions

There was also a decent range of stalls/interactive things. Numerous photo opportunities including an Iron Throne, Minions, and a Delorian. Sadly, albeit not surprisingly, all photos with the guests were charged. Additionally, there was a great stand which took 3D picture for free. It consisted of an open booth with cameras on all walls. They’d then email you the pic and provide a link to have your own little model made! There was also a designated kids zone with play area which was a nice touch. It was also nearer the main food area which I’m sure was good for tired parents! Lastly, they featured both table-top AND video gaming areas which was an excellent addition.

Overall, it was far from a bad con. It was, in fact, very good in some ways. But it lacked in organisation and signposting which made certain aspects difficult. That coupled with the shear density of attendees was the problem. Attendance levels are a difficult one to balance but perhaps in future MCM Glasgow would benefit from moving to 3 days to spread the flow out. 7/10

Rating:
7
Topics:
Tuesday, May 2, 2017 - 09:53 by BenCTurnbull

Hero Conventions’ Edinburgh Comic Con was a first for me on two grounds. Firstly, it was my first ever con (or simply anything like it) and, secondly, it was my first time going anywhere with a press pass. I was both excited and nervous as well as slightly unsure what to expect on either account. One of the biggest things which struck me was the shear inclusivity of it all. There are certain stereotypes about gender which are totally smashed by the diversity of the attendees and that was utterly wonderful to see (though, I suppose a little saddening that I found that note-worthy!). Overall, it was a thoroughly enjoyable experience which has sparked my interest in conventions and as such I’m hoping to go to many more in the future! But enough about me, let’s talk about EdiCon.

Firstly, venue and location. The venue was only a 10-minute walk from Haymarket station which was great. Haymarket is a well-connected station and being within walking distance was super convenient. It was helped a lot by the streams of colourful, foam weapon-wielding people as well. The venue itself was very suitable for the event and had ample disabled access which was great. It consistent of two main rooms with a wide connecting corridor. All the attractions and stalls had ample space such that, even when amidst the crowds, you still had room to move quite freely. We were informed that, after 3 years, the con had grown to include the second room and, whilst space was used well, if they continue to grow again it may become far more cluttered. Facilities were on point. There were ample numbers of toilets scattered around the venue (no queues, even for the lady’s’!). What’s more, there were 3-4 refreshment stands across all parts of the venue with free iced water plus a decent range of drinks as well as breakfast and lunch menus. Food was at roughly Pret standards (price as well). The only let down for the venue was the panel room. It was partly-isolated, side-room to one of the main ones and was rather long and thin. It left some of the late comers spilling into the main room. Overall, a great venue and well utilised.

Next: stalls. My gosh were there a lot of stalls (whilst I realise that MCM London or San Diego Comic Con would create a vast shadow of this it was still rather a lot!). The stalls covered a large range of independent artists and publishers which was great to see. There was also a lot of individual’s selling home-made memorabilia including knitted figures as well as the awesome Custom Cupcake Company. The range of independent stalls was impressive and I took great delight at looking at some of the original artwork. In addition to this great selection there was also a decent number of stands with the comics and merch you’d expect such as props, t-shirts, and funko pops. There was also a rather lovely full-size replica of Captain America’s shield in metal which I had to restrain myself from buying (but have since acquired the plastic version). Overall, the stalls were extensive, impressive, and hosted by friendly and very approachable people.

Now, on to panels. There were 8 panels across the two days including talks on self-publishing, a preview screening of ‘Shooting Clerks’, and Hero Talks with three noted actors. I went to two of the latter and gathered quite a different experience from both. Firstly, Claudia Christian. Claudia is known for a variety of television, film, and video game roles but most notably her stint as Commander Susan Ivanova in Babylon 5. As expected, a large quantity of her panel was spent fielding questions about B5 but there were also some nice niche questions about her other work. The panel itself was very audience oriented which was nice but at times left a little dead air. Regarding Claudia herself, whilst some of her stories and insights were interesting, she came across quite abrasive at times. It felt as if she often avoided answering the questions and used them as an excuse to just talk about herself. Overall, not the most enjoyable panel but insightful none-the-less. In stark contrast, panel number two was with the wonderful Ian Beattie. Ian is noted for his roles in film and television but most prominently his recent 5-year role in Game of Thrones as Ser Meryn Trant. He was super friend, welcoming, and charismatic. He held down the occasional gaps in questions be sharing anecdotes from across his career with gusto and, overall, seemed like he was genuinely excited to not only be there but also have had the career he has. I had the utmost pleasure to meet him at his table afterwards and he had no issue with spending 30-minutes just chatting about GoT amongst other things. He was a truly nice and friendly human being.

Moving on from panels: cosplay competition. I was utterly blown away from the start at the dedication that people of all ages and genders put into costuming for this event. I knew cosplay was a thing but it was incredible. Before I had even put my bag down on day one, I met Hawkeye who had an amazing attention to detail in his costume (zoom in on the arrow head in the attached picture). Across the whole event, the cosplay was fantastic and I was particularly impressed by how receptive people are to the full range of standards: whether you have a store-bought, a quickly put together at home, or something you’ve spent a year on everybody loves it. The competition itself was fantastic fun and the standard was high. They split it into under 16s and adults which was good but could have gone further. Quite a few groups entered in the adult part and it feels difficult to compare an individual to a group. Also, all entrants were asked if they’d like to tell or show the judges anything but they were obviously not informed before-hand so there was some slightly awkward dead air at times. Overall, really good fun with a very high bar. I’m looking forward to joining in next time!

In addition to the expected stalls, panels, and cosplay, there was also a nice assortment of photo opportunities with, for example, star wars props, a Tardis, and E.T. There was also an entire section of table-top games including Magic the Gathering as well as 6 matches from the Scottish School of Wrestling. My only criticism at this point was the lack of interactive exhibits. You could easily see the entire convention, bar panels and cosplay competition, in an hour. This doesn’t detract from it being a great experience and what was present being of a high standard. I am eagerly looking forward to next year’s con and am already on the look-out for others in the area.

Rating:
7
Topics:
Conventions, Edinburgh Comic Con, Convention Etiquette
Sunday, June 5, 2016 - 09:34 by Bren

Day 2 of the UK Games Expo is done and dusted.  It was a little less manic for me than Day 1, I didn’t really leave the Hilton tournament rooms all day; but I still didn’t get home until gone 1am this morning.  Here are my highlights:

Settlers of Catan UK Championships - This was the big one, with twenty tables set aside for the tournament, and twenty fresh boxes of Catan ready to be opened.  I was first to get seated at my table, and so had the pleasure of preparing the pieces for the first game.  As with popping the seal on a fresh jar of coffee, or getting set loose on a pile of bubble wrap, there is a weird satisfaction that comes with pushing those cardboard game pieces free from their packaging.  To be honest, that was as good as my Catan experience got this year.  I played four matches getting one 3rd place, one 2nd place, and then back to back 4th place finishes.  Even an extra bag of Jelly Babies couldn’t power me through, and by the time my participation in the tournament came to an end it was 6.30pm and I was shattered.  Eight hours of Catan really takes it out of you.  I wish I could blame the dice, but the honest truth is I just didn’t play well enough or ruthlessly enough…. and ok, yeah, the dice were against me (maybe a little) :P

But I’m ok with that. As with last year, the really fun thing about the tournament is the new people you meet and get chatting with.  It’s always a much better experience if you can have a laugh with your table mates and enjoy playing the game.  I’ll certainly be back next year, hoping to get a few places higher up the leader board; I honestly don’t think I'd be able to get much lower…

Legacy RPG - Last year was my first experience of an RPG at a Convention, and it was interesting to see how the play styles of my friends and I differed from other people.  It was a great experience and so we thought we’d go for another game this year.  Our tournament commitments (Me in Catan, Dean & Maz both playing in the X-Wing tourney) meant that we had a limited option of available games that would fit our schedule, and so we ended up jumping into a superhero game that ran from 8pm until Midnight.

Our group of heroes had been trapped in a floating temple to Anubis, somewhere in a pocket universe out past Pluto, and had to get free and pursue the group who had trapped us back to the planet ship Salvation Point.  Things escalated when a cosmic wyrm (something that eats planets, don’t you know) appeared and left us with no choice but to steal the planet ship and lure it away from Earth.

There was combat, dashing heroics, a slice or two of copyright infringing Star Wars references, bribing guards with home made cheese dips, and sacrificing the, unsuspecting, embodiment of a star… Yeah, by the end of the game I think a few of us had crossed “Hero” out on our character sheet, and pencilled in “Villain”.  

As with any RPG, you get out what you put in, so if you sit there and don't do a lot you might find it a boring experience; but if you get stuck in, contribute ideas, have a plan for your character, and get involved in the story the GM is telling for you… well, then it can be an absolute riot :) 

I think the GM recorded the session, so there may be an audio transcript of our collective efforts coming out soon.

Other Stuff - In between tourneys and RPG’s there wasn’t that much free time today, but I did get to hang out in the Boulevard and play “Cash & Guns” over dinner.  It’s a fun party game, and I can see the appeal, but I think it definitely needs more than four players to keep it interesting. 

Anyway, Day 3 is about to kick off, so I’ll see you on the convention floor.  

Rating:
10
Topics:
Saturday, June 4, 2016 - 00:47 by Bren

Well, Day 1 of the UK Games Expo is in the bag. I’m back home, utterly exhausted, but very very happy.  Here, in no particular order, are my highlights of Day 1, and games to keep an eye out for if you’re heading down over the weekend.

Wotan Games - Stopped by their table at the press previews this morning to check out War of the Nine Realms.  It’s a modular tile based, tactical skirmish style board game, set in the rich setting of norse mythology.  It uses cards rather than miniatures as markers, and is probably going to quickly become a gateway game to those wanting to explore miniature gaming.  The gameplay can be switched between Heroic and Epic, allowing for a basic combat/dominance game, or a more tactical game with special powers and abilities coming in to play, depending on how you want to play.  Brush up on your Norse Mythology for this one.  Check out the next episode of the podcast for details on the Kickstarter for this, it’s worth checking out.

I jumped aboard the Wotan Bus a little later in the day to play Camelot: The Build with some friends.  It’s an interesting game, and I think there’s more to it than we experienced.  It may have been the luck of our tile drawing, but the point distribution seemed a little unbalanced.  It’s also probably not optimised for a trio of players, which is what we were; and probably works better for 2 or 4 players.  It’s hard to get a real sense of strategy from such quick play throughs, the sheer amount of things to do at the Expo means you don’t often sit and replay a game demo.

Gen42 Games - I remember playing Hive whilst on a date at Thirsty Meeples in Oxford, and I remember getting my ass kicked repeatedly and coming back for more (at the game, I hasten to add). I loved that game, and so when I saw they had a new game out I just had to try it.  

Tatsu is just fantastic, quick to pick up and play and get into, but with a mastery curve which will keep replay value high.  Check out the details at  http://www.gen42.com/tatsu or stop by their stand tomorrow to experience it for yourself.  I picked up a copy of this for myself, and can’t wait to start owning my friends at it :)

Osprey Games - My mission for this games expo was to seek out games, with quick play times, that can be kept in a bag and taken anywhere; ready for a game whenever you have a spare 15 minutes.  I hit the jackpot with Odin’s Ravens.  It’s a 2 player game where you aim to get your Raven back to Odin first, by moving along a landscape track by playing matching landscape cards, or relying on the trickery of Loki. We managed to tear through two games of this, and I could have kept playing.  More details here: https://ospreypublishing.com/odin-s-ravens  

Seek them out in Hall 1, and ask Emma to demo the game.  

Battle of the Bands - A fun, card based, game about the internal politics of being in a touring band.  You play against each other, but also need to work with each other to complete your tours and build your fan base.  The board for the game is printed on a T-Shirt, which was enough to make me want to check it out.  It was well demo’d, and our little group got a kick out of playing it. Great gimmick, and good potential replay value.

BackSpindle Games - They have the Terry Pratchett “Clacks” game. Enough said…  

…well, actually, you can say more, as they are also launching their new game Codinca at the Games Expo.  As with Odin’s Ravens above, this game totally fits the bill of what I’m looking for this year.  “A simple strategy game where players try to complete their own code of four patterns using double sided tiles on a board to win the game”.  They have copies on sale at the expo, or you can visit their website for pre-orders: http://www.backspindlegames.com/codinca/ 

It plays really well, the build quality is cool, and I love the little things like the starting board layout being on the underside of the, magnetic, box lid.  Small, elegant design, a perfect pocket game.  Check it out.

Brain Games - I have no words, just check out their promo video for “Ice Cool” here: https://youtu.be/hhzIZUQvLng.  It is exactly as much fun to play as it looks.  There was so much hype for this game, and it is totally worth it.  We will be getting a full review up soon.

Thirsty Meeples - Man, these guys are awesome.  They’ve brought another huge selection of games down to the Expo, and have set up a massive games library.  Show these guys some love, get a library card, find some open gaming space, and experiment with some new games.  It is the perfect opportunity to playtest those games that may have been on your wish lists for a while; go on, you know it makes sense.

Right, that’s about everything for Day 1.  Tomorrow I will be competing in the Settlers of Catan UK Championships, I’ll be live tweeting my progress over on www.twitter.com/NerdVsWorld so tune in for wood puns and my inevitable collapse when the Jelly Baby sugar rush wears off... :)

Rating:
10
Topics:
Wednesday, November 11, 2015 - 12:00 by David

You know that sound?

That ‘gnnnhhh’ sound?

The one that you do in earshot of young children when you have just stepped on a piece of Lego and don't want to use profanity?

Well imagine the sound of dozens of adults having to crawl on hands and knees in a 20 foot square pit of Lego bricks some 6 inches deep. 

Many a profanity was uttered, which must help the makers of Denmark’s finest toy fulfill their remit of educating children through play. I would suggest they didn't really mean like that though.

This is Brick 2015 at the Birmingham NEC, a celebration of the world’s most prevalent toy.

Lego holds a special place in many a heart. As a child, a method of endless expression, building amazing creations that rival the greatest imaginings of the world's most famous engineers, mechanics, builders and minds.

As an adult, a way to connect to your children and/or your own youth. Although through the prism of age those amazing devices and constructions that you took pride in are ‘not quite’ the earth shatteringly , award winning moments of genius you remember.

For those that simply revel in the joy of building, then Brick is a plastic nirvana. The Brick pits are a magnet for that simple joy of clipping one block to another, even better this is without the inevitable moment where you run out. There were several of these, filled with four by two bricks of a single colour (A week later I am still seeing through a tinge of Orange). 

At the other end of the scale, some very professional and detailed models. The 20 plus feet long Titanic impressed me greatly.

There were displays of ‘fan builds’ , dance areas, video’s, a play area Lego Dimensions, another for next year’s Lego Avengers, large scale Lego figures, etc,etc.

A convention for a single toy range would ordinary seem like a niche market, but not here, there were plenty of people here, and not just serious collectors, this is a family event, there were joyous kids everywhere. Too bloody right too.

You could play, shop, admire, design your own mini figures, purchase sets and generally have a grand day out, the only downside is being unable to sell your organs to get that £3500 millennium falcon set…

Oh, and don't forget the Guinness world record attempts at speed building. These are simple builds that anyone could do, so you will find yourself thinking that you could do them yourself, you will try...and we’re back to swearing...

This is a proper family day out, after a long day of wandering through stalls, being photographed next to life size Hagrids’, Iron-Man Hulkbuster suits of armour, dragons, Ninja Turtles, then it's an exhausted but fulfilled trudge back to the car in the real world with only several large bags of purchases to show for it.

This is a full day, and a worthwhile one. If I could offer some advice get there early but be prepared to be there until the end.

Elbow and knee pads will be a good idea for the brick pits too...

The next Brick convention is 11th - 13th December at the Excel covention centre in London. More details at:  http://brickshowslive.com/

Rating:
8
Topics:
Lego, Conventions
Monday, April 27, 2015 - 22:33 by Spindles

A university may seem an odd choice of a venue for a convention but, on reflection, it has all the necessary facilities that a convention requires. There are large lecture theatres and stages for guest interviews, sports halls for trader zones and signings, large outdoor spaces for attendees to show off their meticulously crafted costumes, and innumerable other spaces that can be re-purposed for photo ops, workshops and all manner of other activities. So, congratulations on the choice of venue. Truly inspired.

As for the offering at the convention itself, there was an impressive array of options to while away the day. I was particularly impressed by the gaming area. Stocked to the gills with pretty much every retro console you could wish for, and a vast selection of titles to play on them. I could have spent literally hours there playing through all the classic games I've loved over the last thirty years. 

A varied and interesting array of Q&A panels was available throughout the day over two lecture halls. Highlights of the day came in the shape of the Red Dwarf panel, Robert Llewellyn, Chris Barrie and Norman Lovett effortlessly entertained the audience with tales of on-set pranks, favourite moments and hints at what is yet to come, including the possibility of a resurgence of another Chris Barrie favourite, The Brittas Empire.

Nicholas Brendon was also both charismatic and captivating during his talk, regaling us with tales of his time on both Buffy and Criminal Minds, and also promise of more to come in his role as writer on the continuing Buffy comic series.

Another highlight of the day for me was the Torchwood panel. I had seen Eve Myles before at the Sci Fi Weekender where she gave a hilarious insight into life behind the scenes on the show. Here, joined by Naoko Mori, the atmosphere is very much like a night in the pub with a few mates, drinking and laughing and telling the filthiest of stories. 

If Q&A's are not your kind of thing then there were many opportunities available for meeting the myriad celebrities in attendance from photo ops to autograph signings and, of course, the after show party. 

While there were a lot of good things about this convention, there were a few things that I thought could perhaps be improved upon. In terms of the talks, it would have made more sense to announce which guests would be attending a panel rather than simply naming the show. For example, while Mark Addy was present, he did not partake in the Game of Thrones panel, I can only assume that he took part in the Atlantis panel instead. Also, by naming the show it limited the questions for a guest to only that specific show rather than others in which they may have appeared. In terms of guest talks, I think there were a couple of missed opportunities. With Matt Ryan and Emmett Scanlan in attendance it was begging for a Constantine talk to happen, given that a decision is still yet to be made on the show's future. Also, Mark Sheppard I'm sure would have been a fantastic talk, as there are very few genre franchises over the last twenty years that he hasn't been a part of.

Finally, if I had one more gripe, it would be with the decision to hold it on a Sunday. It would have made so much more sense to do the event on a Saturday, then an after show party, overnight stay and head home on the Sunday.

Overall I would say it's well worth the visit for the quality of the guests and the excellent venue. We'll see you back there in November for a few games of Pong.

Rating:
6
Topics:
Tuesday, February 10, 2015 - 21:32 by Spindles

Having reached the tender age of 21, The Sci Fi Ball (formerly Starfleet Ball) has now left its hometown in Bournemouth and headed out towards pastures new. In this case, the pasture is that of The Grand Harbour hotel. The Grand Harbor is an impressive venue on the seafront of Southampton overlooking the ferry ports which, for this weekend, would serve as a haven for hundreds of Sci Fi, Fantasy and Comic fans.

Sylvester McCoy

Attendees of the SF Ball have the opportunity to spend the weekend immersing themselves in all manner of comics, games, talks, cabaret, discos, trailer screenings and much more. As well as taking part in Q&A sessions with the guests, attendees can also mingle, have photos taken, get autographs signed and even do The Time Warp on the dancefloor with the guest stars.

Built around Saturday night's three course dinner and the Ball itself, this event is aimed very much at a smaller crowd than other, bigger expos and signing conventions. This gives the whole affair a real feeling that you're there to take part in what is essentially a big, family weekend get together. A large proportion of the attendees and crew have been with the event since its inception and this is more than evident in the level of group camaraderie on display over the weekend. As a newcomer to the event I was a bit concerned that this would leave us a little bit on the outside of things, but every effort was made by the crew and other attendees to make us feel at home. This was achieved through a mix of welcome sessions for all of us newcomers and the now legendary Con Dance Workshops. These workshops are an absolute must if you're planning on joining in with some of the more complicated dances that take place during the Saturday night disco as they can help you to avoid any unfortunate accidents resulting from zigging when you should have zagged. 

Having a core group of guests in attendance for the whole weekend meant that everyone had every opportunity to see and meet each of the stars. The programme of events and talks were scheduled such that there was always something going on around the hotel, but not so much that you were overwhelmed with options and thus missed out on something you really wanted to attend. 

'B' introduces the guests

Speaking of guests, those in attendance at this year's event included 7th Doctor and Companion: Sylvester McCoy and Sophie Aldred; Game Of Thrones and Highlander actor: James Cosmo; Live Role Playing Nerd turned Hardest Working Actor in all Christendom: Julian Seager; Novelist and First Lord of Far Fetched Fiction Robert Rankin; and Star Trek Voyager and Beat Boxing/Dawson's Creek theme tune Karaoke Kings: Manu Intiraymi and Robert Duncan McNeill as well as many more authors, artists and musicians. The full list of attendees can be found on the event's website as well as details for next year's event which looks set to feature Star Trek Actor and Director Jonathan Frakes.

Costumes and cosplay formed a major part of the event with the Friday and Saturday nights each having different themes, this year being The Flintstones on Friday and Steampunk on Saturday. The standard of the costumes on display was extraordinarly high leading to a hotly contested costume competition. As well as the costume competitions, there were also various other competitions on offer over the course of the weekend for poetry, prose, art and model making.

So, in conclusion, if you like your conventions a little bit more on the sedate side, with a friendly, welcoming atmosphere, a truly awesome three course dinner with the stars all capped off with a rousing chorus of Star Trekkin' then this could well be the one for you. As if all of that wasn't enough, the proceeds from the various auctions and raffles over the course of the weekend all went to charity, with over £3000 being raised for the Teenage Cancer Trust at this year's event alone.

Keep an eye out for our podcast with the event organisers coming soon and we'll see you at the bar next year.

Rating:
8
Topics:
Sunday, August 10, 2014 - 22:31 by Spindles

This past weekend saw the Raddisson Blu Edwardian Heathrow Conference Centre taken over by this year's NineWorlds Geekfest. Unlike most other UK conventions, NineWorlds is a multitrack residential convention that covers a ridiculous number of fandoms over the course of a weekend. There truly is something for everyone whether you're into Cosplay or Comics, Game of Thrones or Doctor Who, LARP or Board Games, Food or Knitting, Future Tech or Podcasting there are panels and activities for you.

One of the first things that strikes you about NineWorlds from the moment you arrive is exactly how hard they've worked to make people feel included and comfortable in their surroundings. The Communication Preference Clips are a fantastic idea that I'd love to see implemented at other conventions to give you a great indication of whether or not to approach people for a chat. As well as the comprehensive Code of Conduct and Anti-Harrassment policies there are Newbie Greeters and meet-ups available to help get you settled in. All of this setting out of expectation up front lends the event a wonderfully relaxed atmosphere and allows people to focus on what of the many things on offer they want to consume.

Having only attended the event for one day, I can only guess at how difficult it must be for those attending the full weekend to figure out which things they can manage to attend without having to resort to some form of time travel. It seems however, by accident or by design, that almost every panel or event we stuck our heads into had just about the right amount of people that could fit into the available space. I do have to give a bit of a shout out to the Kickstarter launch for the London Bubble Football League who managed to entice us away from our discussions about the forthcoming WorldCon with the promise of cake.

Several highlights of our day included the Game Of Thrones Season 4 review panel from TitanCon with Miltos Yerolemou, better known as Arya's Water Dancing instructor Syrio Forel, stealing the show with some wonderful insights into both the logistics of recording the show and his thoughts on the events of the most recent series. Also, The headline act of the Steampunk track, The Steampunk Cabaret was a fantastic show from some of the biggest names in the UK Steampunk scene treating us to an array of sketches, stories and music from the likes of Lady Elsie and Major Tinker, The Cogkneys, Herr Döktor and more. But there was so much more that we would have loved to have looked in on had time permitted, such as the Whedonverse singalong, the edible knitting workshop or the late night Rock Band Karaoke.

The sheer amount of actvities on offer means that the experience of this convention is very personal one, as it's incredibly unlikely that you will find another person who has followed exactly the same path you have travelled over the course of the weekend. This had the potential to leave you coming out of the event feeling slightly isolated, however the supportive and inclusive nature of the event means that everyone was made to feel incredibly welcome and comfortable in their surroundings.

If I had to identify any down sides to the event I would have to say that I felt like the trader's area was a little on the small side, there was so much crammed in there that I felt it needed to be at least twice the size to allow for easy navigation around it. Other areas of improvement lay more in the choice of venue to be fair, whilst an excellent venue for conferences that require you to be in one place for the whole day, I felt it was a bit too difficult to find your way to the one little room that was hosting the particular event they you were trying to get too. The entire complex felt exactly that, with labyrinthine corridors needing to be negotiated in order to pick your way to, for example, the eventual goal of the mythical rooms 11 and 12 in the bowels of the building. Whilst every endeavour had been made to provide water to guests around the venue, it was an awfully long way from some of the rooms to one of the two or three bars on site in order to get refreshments. Once at the bars, the service levels of the staff did tend to leave an awful lot to be desired with, on several occasions, four members of staff milling around behind the bar, but only one person actually serving customers. Finally, I think that the fact that the events took place in all these different, hidden away places, meant that there were no real central socialising areas and it was all to easy to go through the whole day without bumping into all the people you know as tends to happen at the more open plan events.

In conclusion, I would say that NineWorlds is a very well thought out, friendly and welcoming event that manages to cram truly something for everyone over the course of the weekend. If you're after big names, big brands and big world exclusives, then this is not the convention for you. NineWorlds caters for the geek who knows exactly what they like and what they want from a residential convention, offering a wider range of topics and fandoms than any other convention on offer currently in the UK. We caught up with one of the event organisers, Erich Schultz over the course of the weekend and you can hear more from him about what they have in store for NineWorlds for next year in this week's WonkyCast at https://www.wonkyspanner.com/podcasts/erich-schultz-nine-worlds-geekfest

Rating:
8
Topics:
Monday, March 4, 2013 - 23:06 by Spindles

After a whole day in bed variously sleeping and hacking up chunks of lung, I'm almost feeling human enough to give a brief account of our weekend away at the Sci-Fi Weekender 4.

For those of you who have never heard of, or experienced it, the SFW takes over a holiday camp in North Wales for a weekend, fills it with around 4000 rabid sci-fi fans and puts on a show of authors, actors, musicians, comedians and much more for their entertainment. We had our first experience of it last year when a couple of our friends won tickets and invited us along. Despite the run-down Pontin's apartments, poisonous canteen and the 10 hour journey home due to our car breaking down in the Apocalyptic Blizzard of January 2012, we decided to go along again this year and take our daughter along with us.

The journey there was a trek through the mountains of Middle Earth complete with frozen waterfalls, free range sheep and small hamlets with greasy spoon internet cafe's serving massive all day breakfasts with vats of tea, sausages with so high a bread content they could be served next to the crumpets on the bread aisle and menus that are presented in both Common and the ancient language of Mordor. After more than six hours on the road we arrived at Hafan Y Mor and went through the relatively painless check-in procedure before settling in to our frankly awesome accommodation. Yes it was arse-bitingly cold, but we eventually worked out that the heating that had less of an operating process and more of a treasure hunt for the relevant isolator switch, followed by a search of the room for the convection heater hidden in a dark recess in order to turn on the switch on the front of that unit before blessed heat issued forth.

Wandering over to the Mash and Barrel on the first night we settled in with a few drinks and a meet up with loads of lovely people who I only previously knew by their twitter handles. We were formally inducted as members of Team Sailor Jerry and had a preliminary wander around the Spaceport Trader zone where I foresaw the spending of far too much money on the cool stuff there.

Friday morning took us into the Main Void for the opening ceremony and then on to a packed programme of panels, signings and screenings. Of the day's panels there were several stand-outs, Manu Intiraymi was incredibly funny, Chase Masterson was utterly charming, and my daughter got up at the very well attended Steampunk panel with Robert Rankin, Jonathan Green, Raven Dane and Sam Stone to ask her first ever question to a panel, which was very well received by all. Followed by a trip to the author zone where we bought a load of books and Megan met all the aforementioned authors and asked more questions that she couldn't fit in at the panel.

The Friday night Imaginarium, while being (imho) better than the previous year with more acts and less scantily clad gyrations still felt a little stale with acts performing the same routine verbatim from the previous year. Highlights of the show being Mental Dave, The Theremin Hero and the intro to the V for Vendetta stage production.

Once the child had gone to sleep we went down to the Mash and Barrel again with the intention of having a drink and watching the late night screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show, however ended up chatting with Jonathan Green and Herr Döktor about Doctor Who, Steampunk flavours and (after many beers) the answers to Life, The Universe and Everything (including MacGuyver). As a result, we completely missed the screening, ah well... There's always another time for Rocky Horror, but never enough time for geeky chats.

Saturday we got into our lovingly (mostly) handcrafted cosplay outfits as The Potter-Hasts. Meg was Hermione, I was Snape and Emma put together a wonderful last minute Bellatrix inspired Random Dark Witch outfit. We had another packed day of panels and signings and saw some absolutely amazing outfits throughout the day. High points of the day were the Doctor Who panel with David Howe, Peter Davison and Frazer Hines, and, of course, the inimitable Brian Blessed being interviewed by Robert Rankin. The one down point for me on Saturday afternoon was the sound issues that made the V for Vendetta stage play virtually unwatchable. I really feel for those guys at it looked amazing and they were absolutely professional carrying on in the face of all the technical problems.

Saturday night was a wonderful mash up of entertainment in the main void with the absolutely amazing Professor Elemental, and a quiz between Dez Skinn and Robert Rankin to discover the master of the re-universe through the medium of charades, multiple choice questions and audience participation. Megan, oddly spent more time on the stage than in the audience, first finding new monkey butlers for herself from the audience, then helping out the Rankinsiders quiz team in its quest for re-universe domination and finally for the Harlem Shake filming. The Cosplay finals were followed up with a marvellous set from Phil Hutchinson from The Geek Show and Craig Charles' funk and soul set. And our evening was finished off to perfection  with a couple of beers and a chat with Mr Rankin and the Lovely Lady RayGun.

All together it was an exciting, exhausting, exhilarating weekend. We've already signed up for the next one and *fingers crossed* we may even be getting involved in the weekend with our podcasting. So... A massive thank you to all involved, it was lovely to meet you all and I look forward to seeing you all back in the Shire.

Photos are up on facebook for your visual pleasure.

Rating:
8
Topics:

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